#219 Vivre sa Vie

Watched: January 22 2019

Director: Jean-Luc Godard

Starring: Anna Karina, Sady Rebbot, André S. Labarthe, Guylaine Schlumberger, Monique Messine

Year: 1962

Runtime: 1h 20min

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Vivre sa Vie. A blog post in 12 scenes.

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Scene I: The backs of people’s heads are fascinating

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Scene II: Nana becomes the world’s slowest shop attendant

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Scene III: Nana has excellent taste in movies, and makes terrible decisions about men

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Scene IV: Nana is interrogated

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Scene V: Nana becomes an entrepreneur

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Scene VI: Nana is responsible

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Scene VII: Nana slowly writes a letter and finds out how tall she is

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Scene VIII: Nana learns the rules of prostitution. But apparently not the function of a pimp…

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Scene IX: Nana needs attention

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Scene X: Nana is ignored in a threesome

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Scene XI: Nana meets a philosopher and is treated like a person

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Scene XII: Nana learns that you cannot just leave this business…

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Engaging and visually interesting, Vivre sa Vie is a must for all fans of French new wave cinema. For hardcore fans, we may also recommend two classic shorts: one here, and the other here. Enjoy!

What we learned: In France, the lion is DEAD tonight.

Next time: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

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#213 Jules et Jim

Watched: January 11 2019

Director: François Truffaut

Starring: Jeanne Moreau, Oskar Werner, Henri Serre

Year: 1962

Runtime: 1h 45min

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Introvert Austrian Jules (Werner) and extrovert Frenchy Jim (Serre) meet as young men in 1912 and a lifelong friendship is born. While rocking their bohemian lifestyle and moving through relationships with various women, they meet free spirited Catherine (Moreau) who they both fall for in their own way.

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We’re sure there’s some symbolism in the fact that Catherine dresses up as a man when they first get to know her… But we’re not ones to speculate.

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Catherine is impulsive and fun, but also intelligent and charming. Jules loves her but is a misogynistic bastard at heart despite his ideas of himself as progressive (as demonstrated by his speech after the Strindberg play they go to see). Still, he convinces her to marry him for some strange reason, although she seems a bit luke warm towards the whole thing. As WWI breaks out, the two men are drafted on opposite sides with Catherine stuck in Austria by herself.

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Shouldn’t be a problem though. A statue doesn’t change just because you leave it alone for a few years.

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After the war, the men rekindle their relationship, and Catherine is once again stuck in the middle with both men wanting to marry her. And they do. But while she has a daughter with Jules, she is unable to conceive with Jim which causes a rift. In addition, the fact that Jim has another girlfriend might also contribute to some tension.

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“So, is this your night or mine?” “I’ve completely lost track. It’s an odd numbered weeknight starting with a T… I think maybe those are yours..?”

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Jules et Jim is a very interesting movie for many reasons. It’s pretty much the epitome of French New Wave and Jeanne Moreau’s great international break out role. It’s also filled with very interesting characters. We cannot quite decide if they are all complex and realistic or just inconsistent and difficult to read. Despite the title, the film is really all about Catherine, but without ever revealing her thoughts and feelings.

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She is as mysterious and inscrutable as the statue the men were initially drawn to

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Because let’s face it: there’s a very strange relationship between Catherine and men. She is always surrounded by them, with no female friends. Nor does she have any friends who aren’t interested in sleeping with her. Yet none of the ones who consider themselves close to her are interested in listening to her. She is ignored whenever she tries to talk about something other than the men or her feelings towards them. Anything else is uninteresting to the men who claim to “love” her.

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“You just get on with your knitting and let us sit here and lust after you in silence.”

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This is no way excuses her final actions, but perhaps it goes some way towards explaining them. She is a nonconformist forced to conform to wife and mother, and an intellectual forced to only talk about men and relationships. It’s enough to make anyone snap.

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Life would have been easier if she was an actual man

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Jules et Jim is a technically interesting movie as well: we loved the voice-over; the “erratic” filming; the cuts and “fast-forward” feeling which felt like snapshots from their lives, and the distance this in many ways created; the costumes; and the complex and  unusual characters. There’s a reason this is considered a classic. And we’re sure there are a thousand ways to interpret the relationship between the characters. This was just our two cents.

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On a lighter note: it made us long for spring, summer and bicycle rides

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What we learned: Relationships are hard. But sometimes it might be a good idea to actually communicate with each other… Also, real friends don’t need to fuck you to stick around.

Next time: Knife in the Water (1962)

#195 Shoot the Piano Player

Watched: August 26 2018

Director: François Truffaut

Starring: Charles Aznavour, Marie Dubois, Nicole Berger, Michèle Mercier, Albert Rémy

Year: 1960

Runtime: 1h 21min

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Charlie Kohler/Edouard Saroyan (Aznavour) is a piano player in a dive bar, but a former classical concert pianist. When his brother Chico (Rémy) seeks him out to shelter him from a couple of gangsters he’s pissed off, Charlie gets dragged back into the criminal family he’s avoided for years.

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“Just ran into the weirdest dude out there. Told me all about his marriage and his wife, completely unprompted. Oh, and also, I’m chased by some thugs and I need you to help me escape.”

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Simultaneously, the shy and slightly awkward musician strikes up a relationship with waitress Léna (Dubois), but the gangsters follow them one night and the couple are kidnapped. However, they get on surprisingly well with their kidnappers.

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Although not as well as Charlie gets on with his friendly neighbourhood prostitute next door

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They get out of that fix unharmed, but as the gangsters become more and more determined to use Chico’s family members to track him down, Charlie realises he must flee and leave his girlfriend behind. Lest she ends up like his first wife…

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“So, first there was the wife. That ended badly.” “How badly?” Well, she’s dead. Then there’s my neighbour Clarisse, but she’s more of a very good friend.” “How good?” “Oh, very, very good… But I swear I’m actually a good guy. Just very unlucky.”

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Shoot the Piano Player is very different from our last encounter with Truffaut, The 400 Blows. It’s a bit Noiry, with the flashbacks, the past the main character cannot escape, the general bleakness and the occasional voiceover narration.

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The trigger happy gangsters complete the picture (we loved them, although their casualness and easy conversation with their victims made them even scarier than your normal movie thugs)

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It’s often sad, dark and depressing, but there are some fantastic laugh-out-loud moments which help alleviate the whole affair somewhat. We’ve been missing the noirs a bit lately (there were so many of them for a while there!), so we really enjoyed this one. Worth watching for fans of French New Wave, Film Noir, thrillers, dramas, and Truffaut in general.

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Or fans of pianos. Or, indeed, people who hate piano players with a fiery vengeance.

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What we learned: Even super polite and likable kidnappers can be ruthless killers.

Next time: Spartacus (1960)

#189 Breathless/À bout de souffle

Watched: July 19 2018

Director: Jean-Luc Godard

Starring: Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean Seberg

Year: 1960

Runtime: 1h 30min

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Michel (Belmondo) steals a car and sings and narrates his way towards Paris. The misogynistic crook ends up shooting a cop who catches up with him and is soon wanted all over France.

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“No worries. I’ll just don a hat and some shades and Clark Kent my way out of this mess”

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For such an unlikable man, Michel has a way with the ladies and manages to get some money out of one female friend before moving on to the main object of his desires, American journalism student Patricia (Seberg). He tries to convince her to run away with him while she tries to figure out how she feels about the man she spent a few nights with.

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“Eyes up here, tiger!”

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Michel wants to be a tough guy and he models himself on Humphrey Bogart. Patricia is also trying to figure out who she is – perhaps the Bonnie to his Clyde? With the police closing in, they are running out of time and decisions must be made. Who are they really?

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I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-Humphrey-and-Audrey

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Breathless is stylish and artsy, sometimes with a documentary feel to it, while other times it feels more like a romantic comedy or a noir. We love how cool it is, the breaks in the fourth wall, the cuts and close-ups, the opening line and Patricia’s gorgeous stripy clothes (really – she only wears stripes).

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With many to choose from, this dress remains our favourite

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It’s definitely a must-see for anyone with even a slight passing interest in French new wave cinema.

What we learned: Don’t fall for someone who generalizes about your gender every time you don’t do what they want.

Next time: Eyes Without a Face (1960)

#183 The 400 Blows/Les quatre cents coups

Watched: July 4 2018

Director: François Truffaut

Starring: Jean-Pierre Léaud, Claire Maurier, Albert Rémy, Patrick Auffay

Year: 1959

Runtime: 1h 39min

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Antoine Doinel (Léaud) is a pretty average kid. He lives with his self-centred mother (Maurier) and nice enough, but very strict, stepfather (Rémy) in a small apartment in Paris. He doesn’t do too well in school and occasionally gets in trouble, although his best friend René (Auffay) seems to be the instigator at least some of the time.

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“I’m thinking we should hire some hookers and then kill some puppies?” “Yeah, I was thinking more like skip school and go to the fair..?”

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After he’s caught skipping school and lying about his mother’s death to cover for it, Antoine runs away from home. It only lasts for a day or so though, but when his teacher later accuses him of plagiarising Balzac, Antoine runs away again. This time for a while, and with more serious consequences.

 

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“Copied” sounds so harsh. I prefer “inspired by.”

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Antoine is misunderstood and/or ignored throughout the film. None of the adults in his life take the time to listen to him, and his actions are very often misinterpreted and harshly punished, such as his homage to Balzac and his return of the stolen typewriter (which, granted, he did steal earlier).

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Considering the irony of being caught returning stolen goods…

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We loved The 400 Blows. While it’s a fairly tragic tale of a talented but misunderstood young boy who gets into all sorts of (quite serious) trouble, it’s not all bleak. We loved the P.E. sequence with the rapidly diminishing student body, the centrifugal carousel, the shrine to Balzac and the kids watching the puppet show.

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Not to mention the extremely disruptive students

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Without spoiling it, the ending is also (possibly) optimistic, with Antoine standing at several thresholds and between two chapters of his life. There are four more films made about the same character played by the same (wonderful) actor, and we’re tempted to make a night of it and watch them all. In about ten years when we’re done with everything on the list

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In case you were wondering, we do bring this amount of energy and enthusiasm to every single film screening. Every. Single. One.

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What we learned: Life is hard for kids. Also, parents have responsibilities beyond feeding their children.

Next time: Special Bonus Post! Oboy oboy oboy!!!

#162 Elevator to the Gallows/Ascenseur pour l’échafaud

Watched: January 20 2018

Director: Louis Malle

Starring: Jeanne Moreau, Maurice Ronet, Yori Bertin, Georges Poujouly, Jean Wall

Year: 1958

Runtime: 1h 31min

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Foreign Legion veteran Julien Tavernier (Ronet) and his lover Florence Carala (Moreau) have a diabolical plan: they will kill Florence’s husband, who just so happens to be Julien’s boss, and make it look like a suicide. The plan is good (you know, in an evil way) and goes smoothly until Julien forgets to get rid of a key piece of evidence.

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Strangely enough, considering his 74-a-day habit, it was not a DNA-riddled cigarette, but an innocent rope

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When Julien tries to retrieve the rope hanging from the murdered man’s window, his timing couldn’t be worse and he ends up stuck in the elevator for the night when the power is turned off.

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“Dammit! I shouldn’t have had that extra croissant for lunch. Now I won’t be able to squeeze out until I’ve worked it off.”

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Florist Véronique (Bertin), who works across the street, and her crook boyfriend Louis (Poujouly) take this opportunity to steal Julien’s car and go on their own spree, which also ends in murder. One in which Julien becomes the main suspect as Louis stole his identity as well as his sweet ride.

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“Fret not, my dear. It’s just a bad day. Who hasn’t had one of those days where they’ve stolen several cars and killed German tourists? It’ll all blow over soon.”

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Meanwhile, Florence wanders the streets of Paris searching for her now MIA lover she thinks she saw driving off in his car with another woman. Her internal dialogue is not happy about this.

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She’s in the ultimate sexy French depression

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We loved everything about this movie. It is visually stunning and fantastically scored with music by Miles Davis. Despite the fact that Julien committed his very own murder, we kept hoping that pretentious douchebag Louis would be arrested to clear Julien of killing the extremely happy German tourist, and the suspense kept us on the edges of our seats.

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That, and Jeanne Moreau’s various depressed faces

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All the characters are horrible people, and yet we were enthralled by the story and very invested in the ending. Definitely a must-watch!

What we learned: Divorce was invented for a reason, people. Use it!

Next time: Mon Oncle (1958)